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MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Europe launched its Eastern Partnership project as a means of pushing former Soviet republics away from Russia, but now it has no idea at all where to move in the company of its newly-acquired partners. This explains why it keeps postponing the cancellation of the visa regime and admission to the EU, polled experts have told TASS in the wake of the just-ended Eastern Partnership summit in Riga.
"Eastern Partnership is not a tool of expanding the European Union, but a means of rapprochement with the EU," Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel said. The European Union has promised that in December it will tell Kiev and Tbilisi what the outlook for the cancellation of the visa regime is in reality. At the same time the summit in Riga confirmed that a zone of free trade between the European Union and Ukraine will take effect on January 1, 2016. The summit’s declaration enumerated such guidelines for Eastern Partnership cooperation as reforms, economic development, liberalization of trade and energy security.
The program for a rapprochement with the European Union, launched in 2009 for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine is obviously stalled with no success in sight. Euro-integration aspirants are invited to take a seat on folding chairs in the EU’s antechamber. At best. Only Moldova has been granted a rather restricted version of a visa-free regime in relations with the EU. Neither Ukraine, nor Georgia have been promised it yet," political scientist Georgy Bovt has told TASS.
"As far as Ukraine is concerned, a real civil war has erupted in Ukraine since the 2013 summit in Vilnius, where the then Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovich, avoided putting his signature to the association agreement. Europe is now tired of calls by the Ukrainian authorities for putting pressures on Russia, which, if they are to be believed, is responsible for provoking the crisis in Ukraine. Kiev’s demands for more loans look annoying, too. Of course, Ukraine had expected far greater support from the summit in Riga. But the EU, for its part, is waiting for Ukraine to follow a more sensible line of conduct in terms of compliance with the Minsk Accords, which is clearly seen in the summit’s resolution," said Bovt, the editor-in-chief of the Russky Mir (Russian World) magazine.
"Europe, which conceived the Eastern Partnership scheme as a means to drive a wedge between former Soviet republics and Russia, has no idea at all where it should lead its newly-acquired partners. In the eyes of many Europeans Eastern Partnership has ended in failure. It has proved unable to contain Russia. The idea of competing with Moscow in a tug-of-war in the post-Soviet space had been doomed from the outset," Bovt believes.
"Even a uniform pattern of partnership has failed to materialize. Only Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine have put their signatures to agreements of association with the European Union. Belarus and Armenia have preferred Eurasian integration. And Azerbaijan apparently sees the essence of ‘partnership’ in the opportunity for taking part in the South Transport Corridor project," Bovt said.
The chief of European political studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Nadezhda Arbatova, believes that the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga was convened for the sole purpose of keeping the project afloat. "The just-ended summit highlighted all defects of that project. The main of these is the Eastern Partnership sets no final tasks, but presses for developing relations with the EU for the sake of the process itself. This explains why the Riga summit caused disappointment in Ukraine and Georgia, which heard no promises of the cancellation of visas or EU membership prospects," Arbatova told TASS.
"The other major flaw of the project is the involvement of very different countries, which very often pursue conflicting aims. Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova seek NATO membership. Armenia and Belarus are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and Russia’s allies. Azerbaijan is in no way interested in political reforms the European Union has proposed. Baku’s sole interest is energy cooperation with the European Union. Eastern Partnership participants were also greatly divided over the item of the summit’s resolution on Crimea. Belarus and Armenia disagreed Crimea’s return to Russia’s fold was ‘annexation.’
"One cannot but note the influence of the Ukrainian conflict on public sentiment in the Eastern Partnership countries. Opinion polls in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia ever more often find the people there are skeptical about the European choice. The people do not trust their political elites, which discredit the Eastern Partnership. Also, nobody is eager to agree to the EU-proposed reforms, for they will entail economic and social problems but promise no clear prospects regarding accession to the European Union," Arbatova said in conclusion.
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